Man, you guys do love your animated fantasies from the late seventies/early eighties don’t you? In fact, I’ve now reviewed enough of these things that they’re starting to run together. Which animated fantasy centring on wizards and a war between science and magic with seriously dodgy gender politics is this again? Nit?
It begins with the green wizard, Carolinus (Harry Morgan) calling a meeting with his brothers, the blue wizard Solarius (Paul Frees), the Golden Wizard Lo Tae Zhou (Don Messick) and the Red Wizard Ommadon (JAMES EARL MOTHERFUCKING JONES). Carolinus is the wizard of the earth, Solarius is wizard of the sea and sky and Lo Tae Zhou is the wizard of heaven and they’re all really chill dudes. But Ommadon, the wizard of evil, black magic and “the devil’s realm” is basically Satan in a pointy hat. So Carolinus step-daughter Milisande is a little confused as to why they’re inviting him over for tea, but Carolinus explains that without evil, good is completely impotent, so he’s inviting Ommadon over to give the forces of good a hard on.
In the temple of all antiquity, the four wizards meet and Carolinus tells them that their magic is failing and growing weaker because man is turning away from magic and embracing science and logic. Carolinus wants them to pool their magical resources and create a refuge for all magical beings sealed away from the rest of the world. Carolinus says they must do this because even if the world no longer believes in magic, mankind still needs magic to inspire them. “A fairy flies and, furiously jealous, man himself defies gravity with machines he will call “aeroplanes”.”
Which is an excellent point, nothing else could possibly fill that role.
Solarius and Zhou are all on board for Operation “You Win this Round, Science!” but Ommadon says “FUCK. THAT. NOISE.”
Okay, so this is going to sound ridiculous but I had actually forgotten just how incredible a voice actor James Earl Jones is. And he is having a blast here, you can just hear the relish in his voice when he plays this part. The script is pretty literate and well-written for a cartoon from the eighties and Jones does not waste a single line. He tells them that while he will use his magic to corrupt man’s science and cause them to destroy themselves saying “It is inevitable.”
Ommadon peaces out and the other wizards ask Carolinus if he can be stopped. The green Wizard says that the only way is to invade Ommadon’s realm and steal his red crown, which is the source of his power and also just really suits him because he’s got that kind of face. The wizards decide to do what wizards always do in this situation, outsource the job to some poor unwitting pieces of quest-bait. Zhou, like a dick, says he can’t help because all the creatures in his realm are just so damn peaceful, don’t you know. Solarius, on the other hand, is ready to cut some motherfuckers but unfortunately his contributions to the quest will be less than useful.
So Carolinus has to inspire the quest his own damn self. He picks Sir Orin Neville Smythe, a knight who he knows from way back. He also volunteers his young dragon Gorbash but that leaves one spot left on the team because quests, like comedy, are all about threes. The other wizards give Carolinus an unbreakable shield and a flute that can charm anything to sleep.
To find the third person to go on this quest, Carolinus consults with his boss, Antiquity, who is a “great conglomeration of spirits gone before”. Antiquity appears before him as a giant silver tree and tells him that the person to lead the quest is the 777th descendant of “Great Peter”, the dude who tamed the dragons and taught them how to speak. This descendant of Great Peter hasn’t been born yet, so Carolinus has to travel into the distant future of 1982…
Alright, so let’s talk about the source material for this movie because it’s confusing as hell. The movie takes its name from The Flight of Dragons, a book by Peter Dickinson. Note: I said “book” not “novel” because The Flight of Dragons is not a narrative but a speculative evolutionary study offering a hypothesis as to how real dragons might actually have existed and how they could fly and breathe fire (short answer, they’re big scaly blimps full of flammable gas). But the actual story of the movie comes from The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson (who, I am convinced, chose a surname so close to “Dickinson” just to make my life harder). That book features a scientist from the present day being transported to a fantasy world and ending up in the body of a dragon. The Flight of Dragons keeps that plot but makes the scientist Peter Dickinson, the real life author of the real life book Flight of Dragons. It’s not confusing. You’re just not trying hard enough.
Anyway, Carolinus peers into the future and sees Peter Dickinson, but you already know what he looks like because you’ve seen the movie poster and they would obviously render the character as faithfully as possible…
Goddamn, they didn’t even try to try.
Peter is in a pawn shop trying to convince the pawnbroker to invest in a boardgame he’s created called “Flight of Dragons” because this is the eighties and Kickstarter isn’t a thing yet. Carolinus is shocked to realise that the pieces in Dickinson’s game are him, Gorbash, Ommadon, Milisande, Solarius, Zhou and his old friend Colonel Mustard.
Carolinus appears before Peter and spirits him back into the past where Peter meets another, older dragon named Smrgol, who Peter swoons over like a fourteen year old girl at a Backstreet Boys Concert.
Peter is a little freaked out that all of the characters he created have sprung to life but Carolinus is all “meh, don’t sweat the details, oh look here is my young virginal daughter who you created to be your idealised lust object, let me introduce you.”
Carolinus introduces Peter to Milisande and Gorbash and it’s honestly a little hard to figure out which one he wants to fuck more. But they’re interrupted by Smrgol who comes plummeting from the sky to warn them that all the other dragons have gone over to Ommadon. Smrgol says that Ommadon cast a spell on them but, I dunno. I’m pretty sure the dragons weighted Carolinus’ plan of spending the rest of eternity in one moderately sized field against Ommadon’s scheme of killing all the humans and ruling the earth like damn hell ass kings and made the logical choice.
While Carolinus fills Peter in on the quest, Ommadon watches them through a magic pool and sends his own dragon, Bryagh, to capture Peter.
Peter and Millisande hang out in the garden where she confesses her feelings for him which are totally her own feelings that she just has and not because she has to.
But before Peter can explain how, in his time, guys who design board games are considered second only to the gods themselves, he’s snatched up by Bryagh who carries him away in his scaly claws. Gorbash flies after him while Carolinus casts a spell to bring Peter back. Unfortunately, the spell goes wrong and Peter vanishes and wakes up in Gorbash’s body. Carolinus, doesn’t know how to reverse the spell so Peter’s just got to live with the face that Millisande isn’t into him anymore because she thinks of Gorbash as a brother and also he’s a massive fire-breathing reptilian cryptid the size of a bus. Lot of obstacles between these two lovebirds, is what I’m saying.
Sir Orin Neville Smythe’s moustache arrives, shortly followed by Sir Orin Neville Smythe and Carolinus decides that, Freaky Friday-esque shenanigans notwithstanding, it’s time for the quest to get going. There has to be three on the quest but Carolinus says that Millisande going is “out of the question” (the question being “is Carolinus a sexist douche?” and the answer being “Verily, sirrah”.) So instead, Smrgol has to go despite the fact that he has to teach Peter in the ways of being a dragon which means he’s a mentor in a fantasy story and that is a fucking death sentence. In fact, let’s start a pool. When do you think Smrgol’s going to die, and how?
So we now get a really long sequence where Smrgol explains how dragons fly and breathe fire and Peter pedantically explains the scientific basis for all of it and I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved fantasy but never had any truck with all that “suspension of disbelief” malarky.
As they make camp, Sir Orin tells Peter that he really shouldn’t like him as he’s in love with Millisande but he just finds Peter so dashed loveable, consorn it. Ugh.
So there’s plenty I like about this movie and some of it doesn’t even involve James Earl Jones’ magnificent Saturnine basso profondo, but God damn it Peter pisses me off. He’s nerdy and awkward, but he’s transported back to a place where his nerdishness is an asset and there’s a princess who wants him and all the established character’s think he’s just the best and the only reason he isn’t a self-insert Gary Stu is because Peter Dickinson didn’t actually insert himself into this, Rankin Bass did.
Which is not to say that Millisande would be better with Sir Orin, who tells Peter that he loves Millisande because “her purity, innocence, grace and title are an inspiration.”
Oh, and when Peter asks him how long he’s known her he says “since she was five.”
Orin tells Peter that it was actually Gorbash who brought him and Millisande together. He had been questing in Ommadon’s realm when he came across Bryagh eating a nest of dragon eggs. He was able to fight Bryagh off and save one of the eggs, which hatched into Gorbash. He left the baby dragon with Carolinus, who he discovered had adopted “an enchanting daughter”. Said “enchanting” daughter, it behooves me to remind you all, was FUCKING FIVE. Orin says that he made a vow to fall in love with Millisande “when she was old enough, of course.” Oh of course, of course.
Orin laments that he kept his paedo-vow but to no avail, and Peter chimes in “and now she likes me”.
Oh well done Peter. Yes. In the contest for the lady’s affections you beat the moustachioed nonce. Bravo, stud. Oh, and then Peter apologises to Orin because he “wrote the rules to this game” and Orin basically says “hey it’s cool, you go hit that”. We then see that Carolinius has been watching them via his crystal ball, making this possibly the first scene in history where a creep creepily watches two creeps creepily being creepy.
But when his power fails, he asks Millisande to use her own powers to check in on them because apparently that’s not out of the question. Unfortunately, Gorbash, Orin and Smrgol are attacked by Sand Murks, tiny creatures who swarm and drive their prey mad with their incessant chattering. And ho boy, the voice actors do not pull their punches. I haven’t heard this kind of sheer, tortured, agonised screaming since November 8th, 2016. It’s so bad that Millisande is driven crazy, rounding on Carolinus and accusing him of killing her parents and blaming some poor innocent night demon and whoah, this story suddenly took an exiting and unexpected twist!
From here, the story becomes a gripping procedural as Millisande hunts Carolinus across the land, seeking justice for her parents and freedom for the night demon who has only three days before he is due to be executed for a crime he did not commit. By which I mean, Millisande lapses into a coma and the death of her parents is never so much as mentioned again. The fuck.
Meanwhile, in the forest, a mysterious wolf shows up and drives away the Sand Murks. Orin and Gorbash are a little shook up by their experience but are mostly fine, unlike Millisande who wasn’t even really here and is now deep in a coma because obviously she was out of the question.
The wolf is named Aragh and it turns out he is a friend of Smrgol who is surprised to see him because Aragh is supposed to be dead, having been dragged out to sea by a giant squid. Aragh explains the Solarius came across his bloated watery wolf-corpse and ordered him to rescue the Orin and the two dragons from the Sand Merks. No mere squid-fighting wolf, you see. He’s a zombie squid-fighting talking wolf.
Oh, and Aragh joins them on their quest. Yeah, yeah, there’s supposed to be only three but do you really think a zombie squid-fighting talking wolf cares about rules?
So they make their way through the forest and are ambushed by some elves who snare the dragons in special anti-dragon nets and drop a ton of rocks on Aragh. Fortunately, Aragh is immune to rocks and just shrugs it off like it ain’t no thang (seriously, where is this guy’s movie?). Suddenly, the dwarves are all pinned to nearby trees by arrows and Orin is stunned to find that they’re rescuer is, get this, a WOMAN.
Danielle frees the head elf, Giles…
Really? Giles? Giles the Elf? Okay then.
Anyway, Giles explains that they saw the dragons and assumed they were rolling with Ommadon because literally every other dragon on Earth is rolling with Ommadon except these two clowns. Daniellle asks if she can join their quest (Honey, no, you can do better) and Orin says that it’s a “bit unusual” (oh is it REALLY) but yeah, okay, they might have a spot on the team for the stunning Amazon with archery skills that make Clint Barton look like Trigger the Vulture.
Oh, and Giles joins the quest too because why not?
Millisande narrates that the quest is now approaching Ommadon’s country despite the fact that she is in a coma. Chick’s coma-narrating, that’s cool. That’s cool.
They arrive at an inn and the two dragons sleep in the cellar while the rest of the party enjoy some mead. Orin asks the inn-keeper who the Nazgul-looking dudes i the corner are and is told that they’re merchants from Ommadon’s realm. Orin is furious, saying “you serve Ommadon’s swine?!”
The inn-keeper reasonably explains that his inn is on the border of Ommadon’s realm and the forces of evil pay their tabs, and Orin yells “WELL I DON’T LIKE ‘EM!” and it takes a special kind of asshole to make you feel sorry for someone in a hood with glowing red eyes but Orin is an asshole for the ages.
Meanwhile, in the cellar, Smrgol and Peter, our heroes, have eaten everything in the cellar and gotten drunk off their asses, condemning the innkeeper to financial ruin.
Okay, that’s it. I’m officially rooting for Ommadon to win.
In the night, Ommadon sends an orgre to attack the inn. The dragons wake up in the rubble to find the inn-keeper dead, killed by the ogre (allegedly). They also find Giles hiding in a cauldron of soup who tells them “I’m nearly pot-boiled to a fare-thee-well!” and okay I thought I’d include some of Giles’ dialogue, you know, give him his moment in the sun and that was obviously a mistake. You’ll never hear from him again. I apologise.
Anyway, Giles tells them that he saw the Ogre reach in through the window and take Orin and Danielle from where they lay AND OH GOD ORIN AND DANIELLE WERE SLEEPING TOGETHER WHY IS EVERYTHING TERRIBLE?
Anyway, Aragh, Giles and the two dragons track the ogre to “Gormley Keep”, a forbidding fortress in Ommadon’s realm. And I’m sure it’s supposed to sound ominous but “Gormley” is a fairly common surname in Ireland so to me this just sounds like “Castle Jones” or something.
Because Smrgol is older than sin, Peter has to challenge the ogre to a fight (one detail that I think is quite funny is that it’s a three-eyed ogre that’s lost one eye). Peter turns out to be utterly useless (I’ll give you all a minute to replace your monocles) and Smrgol has to join the fight to save Peter and he’s a mentor in a fantasy story so we all know where this is going.
Alright, so the team is down one dragon but at the rate the quest party has been expanding I’m expecting a magical scarecrow, a lady robot and a sassy talking fox to have joined the roster by the time I finish this sentence. They rescue Orin and Danielle and head off into Ommadon’s lair. There, Peter actually manages to be useful when he smells sulphur coming off a nearby lake and realises that it’s more acidic than xenomorph stew.
Ommadon hits them with a spell to sap their will and make them think the quest is hopeless, but Solarius appears to Peter to remind him of that nifty shield he gifted to him and Peter uses it break the spell and give everyone their pep back. Ommadon then decides to stop faffing a about and orders Bryagh to take every dragon on the payroll and go kill those fools, booming: “GO! A FLIGHT OF DRAGONS! I COMMAND IT! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!” and this movie jack-knifes from worst thing ever to greatest thing ever so quickly it gives my eyeballs whiplash.
Our nominal heroes see the sky blackened with dragons tearing towards them and they prepare to make their last stand, but Peter gives Giles the flute and tells him to play his little elfin lungs out. This puts all the attacking dragons who are flying miles above them in the sky to sleep, but also Peter because he’s a dragon and the flute only effects dragons now. Apparently.
But Bryagh wasn’t effected by the flute and shows up ready to throw down. He kills Giles (Yay!), Danielle (Aw!) and Aragh (Noooooooooooooo!) and only Orin is left alive to fight him (WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME LORD?)
Bryagh bathes Orin in dragonfire but before he dies, he flings his flaming sword into Bryagh’s chest, causing him to explode. So, the paedo went out with style, I’ll give him that.
Ommadon arrives to gloat over the bodies of his enemies, but Peter Dickinson suddenly emerges from Gorbash’s sleeping form. Ommadon demands to know how he reversed Carolinus’ spell and Peter smugly tells him that he remembered that two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time and that when he realised that, the spell was broken, therefore proving that science is stronger than magic. Or something.
Okay, so couple of things. Peter was only freed after the magic flute was played so logic would suggest that that was what reversed the spell, not Peter suddenly remembering that a human being merging with a giant is frowned upon by the laws of science and also most of the major world religions.
Second. Peter is a terrible, terrible scientist. Science says that two objects cannot exist in the same place and time? Fine. But then, you know, it happened to Peter. So he has observed with his own eyes that, contrary to what he previously believed, two objects can in fact occupy the same space and time because he, Peter Dickinson, is in Gorbash’s body. But instead of accepting that his previous hypothesis was wrong, he doggedly insists that no, that’s not possible, despite the fact that it literally happened to him. That’s not science, that’s dogma.
Ommadon grows seven fire-breathing dragon heads out of his back (DUDE IS A FUCKING BOSS) and tells Peter that he can do anything, even plucking the sun out of the sky. But Peter condescendingly explains that by the time the light from the sun reaches the Earth, it’s already in a different position and really Peter, that’s the problem with this plan?
Peter then proceeds to defeat Ommadon through the power of smug condescension, because magic is a load of baloney and he’s got science and logic on his side. he keeps reciting random scientific principles until Omaddon dies, presumably from boredom.
Wow. This is like watching a musical where the final number is about how singing and dancing is for losers and everyone should study to be accountants. You know what, I hate to say this…
I mean, I really, really hate to say this…
Like, I will never forgive myself for saying this,
Like, I will turn myself in to law enforcement for saying this after I’ve finished this review…
But Wizards did the whole “magic versus science” thing better.
Not saying it was a better movie, mind. Just saying that that one theme was handled much more intelligently.
Danielle, Orin, Aragh and Giles all come back to life (praise science!) and Gorbash wakes up now exorcised of the unclean spirit of Peter Dickinson. Carolinus rolls up in his flying house and they give him the good news that Ommadon is defeated but he tells them that Peter is gone because he renounced magic and so is lost to them.
Millisande comes out with the red crown of Ommadon and Carolinus is overjoyed to see that she’s awake, and says that it was foretold that the Red Crown of Ommadon would awaken her. This, mind you, is even though she came out of the coma like three scenes ago. We have had multiple scenes of her talking to Carolinus. Not about how he totally killed her parents and framed a night demon (never the day demons, you ever notice that?). But still. She was totally awake. So presumably this prophecy Carolinus is talking about referred to the crown waking her up from a perfectly regular nap.
But Millisande explains that it wasn’t the crown that woke her up, but “the kiss”, and Carolinus is delighted because what more could any father want than to know that his daughter’s unconscious body was being macked on by the world’s smuggest man?
Millisande begs her father to join Peter in the future and he sadly agrees because he knows that she loves him.
Uh huh. And I’m sure the central heating, sanitation and vaccines has nothing to do with it.
Sigh. My blessings to you both.
Animation 13/20: The animation is better than Return of the King and worse than The Last Unicorn. But I gave both of those movies a score of 13 for the animation so I’ve kinda boxed myself in, haven’t I?
Lead 05/20: In theory, taking the real life author of a work and making him the main character of its adaptation could make for a fascinating study on meta-textuality. In theory, communism works.
Villains 16/20: The design is pretty ridiculous, but it’s James Earl Jones. I could listen to that voice until the cows were put into retirement homes.
Supporting Characters 11/20: The usual Rankin grab bag of the good, the bad and the what were they thinking?
Music 12/20: You want gentle pastoral folk ballads motherfucker? We got your gentle pastoral folk ballads right here.
FINAL SCORE: 57%
NEXT UPDATE: 31 January 2019
NEXT TIME: About damn time?